Sunday, 12 July 2015
Everyone does an Ashes preview, it seems. Mine, for VICE Sports, decided to take a different tack from the 'Key Battles', 'Players to Watch' route, and instead started off with a (NSFC) delirious parallel between dropping your first pill (yes, I was once young and wild) and England's joyous early-season romp against the Kiwis: particularly the Lord's Test and the ODI series, when England finally played with the handbrake off.
It was thrilling, exuberant, wide-eyed stuff, enough to make you fall in love with the game again. However, as Newton's laws probably say, what goes up must come down, and so I was expecting the Ashes to be something of a buzzkill. Of course, I got it spectacularly wrong, inasmuch as I looked at things through the lenses of an English cricket watcher accustomed to disappointment. Happily, I wildly underestimated England's strengths and grossly overestimated Australia's (caveat: Ryan Harris hadn't retired by this stage, and his absence drastically tips the balance in England's favour, albeit, I thought, not as far as seems to be the case after the first Test).
Anyway, here is my preview: The Ashes: England's Post-Party Comedown.
My most recent Cordon blog for ESPNcricinfo was a riff about Australia's twin, left-arm 90mph rocket launchers, Mitchell and Mitchell.
It was written before the Cardiff Test, during which Mr Starc probably enhanced his burgeoning reputation, bowling through injury to finish with 7 wickets in the game, including a five-fer in the first innings (he also taught me that the longest palindrome in the English language was STARCOCRATS: group that rules by the use of Mitchell Starc).
Mr Johnson, meanwhile, also made a useful contribution. Unfortunately, it was with the bat. And when the game was gone. At one stage he looked like threatening Imran Tahir's unwanted record for the most expensive wicketless Test analysis in history (0 for 260), but nicked out Ian Bell. His reputation for being ineffectual in Welsh conditions, after a mediocre Test there in 2009, is now confirmed. As for his reputation in English conditions, I'm not yet entirely certain we should be rolling out the old song quite yet for a man who took 37 wickets at 14 in the previous Ashes. Sure, he has to work out a way to build pressure on slower pitches, but this is still a bowler to be wary about.
The Return of the Merciless Mitchells
This blog-cum-archives magnum opus thus far is, without doubt, the seven-part exploration of the Curious Case of Adrian Shankar, the cricketer who blagged a two-year deal at Worcestershire in May 2011 on the back of fabricating his real age and completely inventing a T20 tournament in Sri Lanka.
It was a story that tickled the belly of (county) cricket fans, but there were a few facets that hadn't emerged until I told the story: namely, the fake website he built in a desperate bid to persuade Worcestershire his story was kosher, and a thread on a Sri Lankan cricket fans' forum that I started in an attempt to lure him into a dialogue-by-proxy, both of us as sockpuppets. I also screengrabbed his retrospectively revealing blog for bat manufacturers Mongoose, written while at Lancashire, and from that made some amateur speculations as to the specifics of his psychological wiring.
It remains untarnished as a jaw-droppingly bizarre story, and one that I tried to condense to 1800 words for VICE last month. The process was reasonably slow, with their lawyers being careful not have anything that was potentially litigious published, but the soundness of my sources and evidence was enough for them to eventually run the following piece, which provoked a little mirth on the social medias.
The Strange Case of Adrian Shankar, the Cricketer Who Lied His Way to a Professional Contract
So, having started this series with a short profile of Luke Fletcher, the second installment of The Shire Brigade for All Out Cricket was with inky West Country master blaster, Peter Trego. He was very warm and extremely funny, exactly as a Cult Player should be.
The Shire Brigade: Peter Trego